Warren, Newton’s first African-American mayor and a former candidate for US Senate, said he will finish out the remainder of his second term as he weighs his next steps.
“I wanted to allow enough time for the residents and the community to select the next mayor,” Warren said in an interview. “I’ll be thinking about what I want to do next. I’m passionate about public service, but that takes many forms.”
Warren said he made the decision with his wife, Tassy, because he felt he had accomplished what he set out to do when he took office.
Warren, a Democrat and Iraq War veteran, was elected in 2009 to replace longtime mayor David B. Cohen, who decided not to run again amidst widespread rancor over the cost of the new Newton North High School. At nearly $200 million, it was the most expensive school building project in state history.
Not quite 18 months into his first term, Warren announced a run for US Senate, angering many residents. He dropped his bid to unseat then US Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, after he was financially outgunned by fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who went on to win the race. Warren was reelected to his second term in 2013.
“I knew we needed to fix the financial crisis, rebuild infrastructure, work on maintaining our excellent public schools, and we did,” Setti Warren said. “There are always more challenges, and we want to be forward facing, but we built a strong foundation for Newton moving forward, and that’s what I’m basing my decision on.”
Warren scored a victory in 2013 when residents approved three tax questions totaling $11.4 million to build new elementary schools, hire more teachers, and fix aging facilities. This year, he unveiled an ambitious housing plan for the city, a long-range transportation strategy, and a partnership with Boston College to address income inequality in the city.
“We’ve been focused on making sure Newton has a strong foundation to continue into the future,” Warren said.
Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, said it will be interesting to see how the mayor’s initiatives progress in the next year, and whether his successor will endorse the plans.
“What’s been important to me is his housing plan and affordable housing, and he has outlined a vision that I think is really important,” Reibman said.
Already two potential successors have come forward. City Council president Scott Lennon and Ruthanne Fuller, Ward 7 city councilor at large, both said Thursday they will run for mayor next year.
“I want to the opportunity to write the next chapter of Newton’s future,” said Lennon, who has been on the council — formerly the Board of Aldermen — for 16 years. “I believe I’m the right person to do that.”
Lennon said Warren’s decision not to run for a third term is a sad day for Newton, but that Warren has left a positive mark on the city.
“He’s done a tremendous job really wrapping his arms around financial sustainability, roads and infrastructure,” Lennon said. “He set out to do what he said he was going to do when he ran. But there’s still a lot of work to do here, and we gotta get back to work.”
Fuller said she is grateful to Warren for his leadership in creating a strong foundation for the city, which she would love to build upon if she were elected mayor.
“I have loved being a city councilor for the past four terms,” Fuller said, “and this is a wonderful opportunity where I can dig in and make the biggest difference for Newton.”
School superintendent David Fleishman said Warren has been a strong advocate for the city’s school system, especially in working to pass the tax increases that allowed the district to renovate existing schools and build new ones.
“He cares deeply about education and has worked incredibly hard to support all students and adults who work in the Newton Public Schools,” Fleishman said. “He will be missed, and I know my colleagues are going to be supportive of his work and look forward to collaborating in his last year.”
Allison Pohle can be reached at email@example.com.